Federer extends slump with loss to Italian wild card

Roger Federer is officially in a slump. After losing to Guillermo Canas twice and Rafal Nadal in his previous three tournaments, Federer hit a new low with a loss to an Italian wild card.
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Updated on May 11, 2007 02:38 PM IST
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AP | ByAndrew Dampf, Rome

Roger Federer is officially in a slump. After losing to Guillermo Canas twice and Rafal Nadal in his previous three tournaments, Federer hit a new low with a loss to an Italian wild card.

Filippo Volandri beat the top-ranked Swiss 6-2, 6-4 in the third round of the Rome Masters, extending Federer's title drought to four straight tournaments.

It's the worst stretch of Federer's career since ascending to No 1 in February 2004.

"I don't know what's wrong. I have to analyze it myself," Federer said. "I just couldn't get my teeth into the match at all."

Rome is a key clay-court warmup for the French Open, which begins May 27, and Roland Garros is the only Grand Slam that Federer hasn't won.

"(I need to) get back on the practice courts instead of the match courts," Federer said.

Two-time defending French Open champion Rafael Nadal extended his clay-court winning streak to 74 matches with a 6-2, 6-2 win over 15th-seeded Mikhail Youzhny.

Youzhny had beaten Nadal in their last two meetings both on hard courts.

Nadal was examined by doctors on Thursday for a dizziness but appeared untroubled in his night match against Youzhny. Nadal is aiming to become the first player to win the Rome tournament in three consecutive years. He beat Federer in a fifth-set tiebreaker in last year's final.

In the quarterfinals, Nadal will face fifth-seeded Novak Djokovic, who rallied in the second set to beat last year's Australian Open runner-up Marcos Baghdatis 6-2, 7-5. Third-ranked Andy Roddick's run also came to a halt Thursday, losing to Juan Ignacio Chela 6-0, 6-4. Fourth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko avoided another upset by rallying to beat Potito Starace 4-6, 6-2, 7-5.

Federer dropped his serve twice in the first three games and quickly lost control of the first set. In the second set, Volandri broke to take a 2-1 lead when Federer made four errors. "On clay you don't get many free points if you don't serve well, and I was serving horrendous in the beginning," said Federer, whose first-serve percentage was 44 percent.

Volandri put 74 percent of his first serves in play. "I served really well, with a lot of spin that made the ball bounce real high, and the strategy worked," Volandri said. On Volandri's first match point, Federer hit a forehand into the net.

Volandri dropped down to the clay on his back and ran around the court slapping fans' hands to celebrate. The crowd responded with a chant associated with Italy's World Cup soccer win last year. He became the first Italian to beat a No. 1-ranked player since Gianluca Pozzi defeated Andre Agassi seven years ago. "This is worth more," Volandri said. "I think Federer is the best player of all time."

Federer often missed routine baseline shots and his body language conveyed little will to compete. He hit only two winners with his forehand, and committed 44 unforced errors.

"I have to admit that he helped me by making too many errors," Volandri said.

Federer's ability is usually enough even on bad days. "It happens a lot, but sometimes I get through them," he said. Federer arrived in Rome more than a week before the tournament to intensify his clay-court training.

"I was the first player to arrive. My preparation was perfect," Federer said. "But let's not forget that Filippo played well today. Give the guy credit."

The 53rd-ranked Volandri also played well in his only previous meeting with Federer, losing a three-setter here in the 2003 quarterfinals.

Italy's top player beat 13th-seeded Richard Gasquet on Wednesday for his first win against a top-20 opponent this season. "I played against a guy that was confident today and knew he had a chance. This is how it is in tennis," Federer said. "I know how tough it can be in Rome, so I was expecting a tough match."

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